Most Viewed Stories
Linda Elementary percussion program has rhythm
Djembe. Bugarabu. Doundoun.
Those funny-sounding words are music to the ears of sixth-graders at Linda Elementary School, where every week they gather in teacher Timothy Dant's Afro-Cuban drum class to palm and pound on musical instruments from foreign countries.
As they practice rhythm and beats to pop tunes and the occasional Afro-Cuban song, sound resonates from the portable building at the furthest edge of campus.
"I'm learning part of my heritage," said Marlyne Vargas, 12, noting that she's Native American. "It's fun to play and just to be free."
Sitting in a literal drum circle, the students smack hands and fingers on conga drums, bongos and even plastic buckets. Many of the instruments are from Ghana, but Dant has also teaches with maracas; a drum made from an olive-curing barrel; and the "Mother Drum," which was common in Native American pow-wows.
"Different types of drums make different kinds of sounds," explained Brittney Clark, 12.
"I like hearing the sound and putting the beat into it," added classmate Chase Boyce, 10.
Dant started teaching Afro-Cuban drumming a few years ago at North Marysville Continuation High School, but due to time constraints, it never took off. Then last year, Linda Elementary Principal Judy Hart asked why not start a drum class.
Dant applied for a mini-grant through Marysville Joint Unified School District and was awarded $1,000 to purchase materials. He now teaches sixth-graders two days a week and also offers classes to students in the after-school recreation and study program.
"They are using their ears, they are using both hands," he said. "It's sort of an active form of meditation. They really work on being able to focus their mind."
Tall drums resting between their knees, the students mimic Dant as he shows them what beats to play. Then he turns on the stereo, and as "Call Me Maybe" and "Want You Back" pulse from the speakers, the students add to the acoustics.
"It's fun, and I feel like dancing. I do it like this," said Karina Ramirez, 7, moving her hands quickly. "And then I do it slow."
Her classmate Eder Esquiver Hernandez, 7, said he loves the "mama drum."
"It feels fast," he said.
As song tempos change, students slip seamlessly from one pattern of drumming to another, and a few students sing along.
"That song is too annoying," shouted one student. "No, it's too hard," cried another, as classmates begged to play along to One Direction, Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber. At the end of the lesson, they plead with Dant for "One more song!"
His goal is for students to drum as a drum circle, creating their own music. In the meantime, he'll continue to use the popular hit music songs that carry their interest — as long as he can find clean versions OK for school.
"They get to have fun," he said. "It's an easy thing they can do right away. They don't have to learn notes. It's, 'Here. This is the beat, just try it.'"
His students are slated to perform Nov. 8 at family dinner night at the school. Eventually, Dant said he would like take the class on tour to other schools. If teachers are interested in seeing his students perform for an assembly, he can be reached at Linda Elementary.
Drum classes are not only great exposure to musical education, Dant said, but they can help students with emotional trauma feel like part of a group. The rhythm is linked to success through Drums Not Drugs, and as therapy for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia patients.
"And it's healing your soul at the same time," Dant said. "There are all these things going on, and they (students) don't even know it."